Newsmakers with JR
Critics Bash Das -- Williams Answers Them
(Today Newsmakers presents two sides of the controversy over marijuana cultivation in Santa Barbara County: A group of “Concerned Carpinterians” wrote the first piece, originally published by the Coastal View, sharply criticizing Supervisor Das Williams’s role in the situation; Das’s office sent the second piece when we requested a response).
Carp Needs a Supe Who Listens to All.
Submitted by Concerned Carpinterians: Robyn Geddes, Joan Esposito, Robert Lesser, Maureen Claffey, James Clafffey, Llewellyn Goodfield and Marilyn Goodfield.
Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams’ comments at the Carpinteria City Council’s special meeting concerning cannabis activity in the Carpinteria Valley on June 17 strike us as an insult to the intelligence and common sense of his constituents.
We are weary of hearing him pretend to share our concerns, claiming how he is trying to “make it better” when, in fact, Supervisor Williams created this situation.
Within weeks of taking office in January 2017, Mr. Williams advanced the idea of an ad hoc committee with Supervisor Lavagnino, to draft a cannabis ordinance.
He then proposed a registry for self-declared existing growers to be given preference, and establish an unverified baseline which would later be used as justification for the questionable affidavits used to obtain state licenses with no verification of pre-2016 compliance.
Those meetings in 2017-18 are easily accessible online, showing Williams aggressively advocating for no limit on state licenses and allowing for the stacking of licenses—in some cases multiple licenses on a single parcel!
Yes, there were preexisting medicinal grows in Santa Barbara County, as in much of the State of California.
But after Prop 64, other counties either banned marijuana cultivation or adopted strict policies requiring growers to prove legal nonconforming status of parcels, and compliance with mitigations in order to keep growing and to obtain state licenses.
Yet Williams refused to support a Planning Commission recommendation that would have established a process for verification and determination of legal nonconforming status before growers were authorized to obtain state licenses.
We are also troubled by his receipt of $16,500 from members of CARP Growers in 2017-18 at the same time that he cast crucial, favorable votes for them on cannabis cultivation.
Indeed, his comments as quoted in the Los Angeles Times on June 15, are damning, such as assuring cannabis lobbyists “don’t worry, I’ll fix it.” Why would Williams tell one major Carpinteria grower “Don’t tell anyone,” if he did not fully realize that what he was doing was dead wrong?
His comments, role and conflicts of interest merit an independent inquiry, which we will request from the Board of Supervisors.
We can no longer sit by and allow Williams to confect a false narrative to cover up the leadership role he has played in transforming our once charming, semi-rural coastal community into a “company town” for industrial marijuana production.
This has zero to do with our approval of personal adult marijuana use, and we could go on and on countering Williams’ false claims. Instead, we have to spend untold hours working with attorneys and appealing the many dubious permit applications. We all long for Carpinteria’s cannabis nightmare to end, and will do all in our power to ensure that happens.
Das: Nothing to Hide on Cannabis
By Supervisor Das Williams
Regulating marijuana is a difficult public policy issue that has evaded an adequate solution for decades.
The passage of Prop 64, only 53 days before I became First District Supervisor, and the decline of the domestic flower industry forced me into the fray. It is a particularly divisive issue in our community, adding to a long history of grievances between Carpinteria’s flower growers and residents.
I socialize with people on both sides of this debate - you do too if you go to any nonprofit event in our town. The closeness of my friendships on either side is easy to paint as sordid. I have met with people on both sides over coffee, beer, or pizza.
Sometimes a marijuana grower comes up with an idea I like, sometimes I support the opponents. Call them "back room dealings," but I’ve had more with marijuana critics than I have had with anyone else.
One of the meetings that has been twisted was an informal gathering at my house with members of the Carpinteria Valley Association and associates of a local family of growers, the Van Wingerdens, to meet with odor control experts so residents could have a say in how odor control developed on the grow sites.
More recently, I’ve convened a group of four growers and four opponents to discuss current community concerns related to cannabis. Additionally, the Board of Supervisors and County as a whole held over 50 public meetings, including meetings around a countywide Environmental Impact Report.
The result is an ordinance that I believe will address the concerns of Carpinteria residents once permits are issued to those that meet our standards. The ordinance gives Carpinteria additional safe guards the rest of the County doesn’t have – including odor control, a cap on acreage and a ban on outdoor grows.
The ordinance allowed us to shut down 34 cannabis operations countywide since August, a number that will continue to grow as operators complete the permitting process.
Due to the stringent permit requirements regarding odor control, water usage, energy usage, and security, only twelve permits have been issued countywide – only one in the Carpinteria Valley. Note that odor control is not required statewide – it is a product of our own local permitting process.
Which leads me to ask– is the situation better than it was before November 2018, when our ordinance went into effect? The answer I’ve heard from most residents is “yes.”
I understand people are scared by the number of applications in our small town. But the ordinance standards and the cap I added will ensure that only a fraction will receive permits.
I also understand that it is not yet good enough - especially for those who have been living in the Wild West for the last 5 years. I planned for us to be further in the process of cleaning things up by now, and for that added frustration I apologize. I work on this issue constantly, and I will keep working to make it better.